Weighty Problems for Dieters

While this is college, the land of late-night munchies, weekend binge drinking, and all-you-can-eat dining halls, this is also Miami, where “thin” has always been “in” and bathing suit season is year-round. For every student leaving the dinner line with heaping plates of pasta, pizza, and burgers, there is another taking puny portions of lettuce leaves or hollowing out a bagel with a spoon in hopes of preventing the “freshman 15.” What many people don’t know is that their diets and extended workouts may be responsible for increased weight problems.

The medical community long ago linked dieting to eating disorders and extreme weight loss: Most individuals (women in particular) that suffer from anorexia or bulimia first acquired problems while dieting to lose five pounds. However, recent studies suggest dieting itself might cause weight gain: One study of teenage girls found frequent dieters gained two pounds per year more than girls who did not diet at all.

We are a culture that applauds weight loss, regardless of how it’s accomplished, whether it’s through diet pills, “low-carbs” or downright starvation. In fact, our culture is so obsessed with shedding pounds that Americans pay between 40 to 50 billion dollars a year to the diet industry. And college students are no exception. A whopping 91 percent of women surveyed on college campuses have attempted to manage their weight through “dieting” an attempt to keep with the trend of the beautifully endowed.

The average dieter has a wide range of regiments to choose from, each providing detailed instructions regarding meal plans, snacking, and exercise:

Atkins requires high protein and low carbohydrate intake.

The South Beach Diet promotes a high protein intake and argues the difference between “good” fats and carbs to “bad” ones.

Pritikin requires strict adherence to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.

Ornish claims that one can “eat more and weigh less” by focusing on a diet centered upon high fibers and lowered fats.

Weight Watchers, which is based primarily on portion control, allows the dieter to eat whatever he or she may like, but in a reasonable amount.

However, research reveals the results in weight loss are nearly identical for every brand-name diet.

Experts say it is possible to avoid weight gain without either starving oneself or completely altering eating habits. Nutritionists advise people to monitor liquid calories, especially those in sodas, juices, smoothies, and alcohol. Late-night snacking is acceptable if the munchies are healthy. Pizza is fine, but be smart about your toppings and limit your portions. Lastly, exercise whenever you can. Take the stairs as opposed to the elevator. Take a walk instead of a drive. If the treadmill gets boring, take an aerobics class, which is much more interactive, and if you can’t make it to the gym, try doing a few easy exercises at home.

So rather than going to the extremes and participating in die-hard dieting making life and an obsession with appearance a constant stress, eat smart, work out, and don’t forget to indulge every once in a while.

Nicky Zailcka can be contacted at n.zailcka@umiami.edu.